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Arnolfini - est 1961

Arnolfini steward Christopher Fleming visits a new exhibition at Tate Modern spanning almost three decades in the life of the prolific Swiss/German painter Paul Klee.

It had been around six years since I last visited Tate Modern, so it felt like a trip there was somewhat overdue. What better excuse than to take advantage of Arnolfini’s ‘Plus Tate’ membership and an exhibition tour for supporters?

I arrived at 8.30am at the Café bar entrance to the building due to the construction work on Tate’s exciting new extension. I had a short wait for a friend who had taken the morning off work to join me.

We were greeted by a staff member, signed in and deposited our belongings in the cloak room before making our way to level two where a buffet of pastries, fruit and coffee awaited us.

There were around twenty guests gathered by the entrance to the gallery by the time we were introduced to our tour guide, curator Flavia Frigeri.

She is the author of a Tate Introduction guide to Klee, and her knowledge and enthusiasm for the man and his work was obvious. From an art historical perspective she led an appreciative, in-depth tour of the show which lasted for around forty minutes.

Klee, it turns out, obsessively catalogued his own oeuvre, making the curatorial process somewhat easier.

The current show is a retrospective display containing early works, those made during his time teaching at the Bauhaus, and later works painted towards the end of his life – in exile and suffering from a wasting disease.

Klee left Germany for Switzerland in the 1930’s after the Nazis came to power. This change had a profound effect on his work.

I have always liked Klee, but had only ever seen reproductions of his work in books. It was nice to see these paintings in the flesh. I was struck by just how small and intricate a lot of them are – very delicate watercolours of geometric shapes and his trademark brittle mark making achieved using oil-transfer technique. The influence of his trip to Tunisia was evident in the explosion of colour in his work thereafter. He famously declared: “colour and I are one, I am a painter”.

We exited through the gift shop where I purchased a souvenir post card of my favourite Klee painting ‘A young girl’s adventure’.

The EY exhibition: Paul Klee: Making Visible is at Tate Modern until March 9th, 2014